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Depression is a medical illness that involves the mind and body. Also called major depression, major depressive disorder and clinical depression, it affects how you feel, think and behave. Depression can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. You may have trouble doing normal day-to-day activities, and depression may make you feel as if life isn't worth living. More than just a bout of the blues, depression isn't a weakness, nor is it something that you can simply "snap out" of. Depression is a chronic illness that usually requires long-term treatment, like diabetes or high blood pressure. But don't get discouraged. Most people with depression feel better with medication, psychological counseling or other treatment.
Complications of Depression
Depression is a serious illness that can take a terrible toll on individuals and families. Untreated depression can result in emotional, behavioral and health problems that affect every area of your life. Complications associated with depression can include:
Causes of Depression
It's not known exactly what causes depression. As with many mental illnesses, it appears a variety of factors may be involved. These include:
Signs & Symptoms of Depression
Depression symptoms include:
For some people, depression symptoms are so severe that it's obvious something isn't right. Others people feel generally miserable or unhappy without really knowing why.
Depression affects each person in different ways, so depression symptoms vary from person to person. Inherited traits, age, gender and cultural background all play a role in how depression may affect you.
Depression symptoms in children and teens
Common symptoms of depression can be a little different in children and teens than they are in adults.
Depression symptoms in older adults
Depression is not a normal part of growing older, and most seniors feel satisfied with their lives. However, depression can and does occur in older adults. Unfortunately it often goes undiagnosed and untreated. Many adults with depression feel reluctant to seek help when they're feeling down.
Diagnosis of Depression
Because depression is common and often goes undiagnosed, some doctors and health care providers may ask questions about your mood and thoughts during routine medical visits. They may even ask you to fill out a brief questionnaire to help check for depression symptoms. When doctors suspect someone has depression, they generally ask a number of questions and may do medical and psychological tests. These can help rule out other problems that could be causing your symptoms, pinpoint a diagnosis and also check for any related complications. These exams and tests generally include:
Treatments of Depression
Numerous depression treatments are available. Medications and psychological counseling (psychotherapy) are very effective for most people. In some cases, a primary care doctor can prescribe medications to relieve depression symptoms. However, many people need to see a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating mental health conditions (psychiatrist). Many people with depression also benefit from seeing a psychologist or other mental health counselor. Usually the most effective treatment for depression is a combination of medication and psychotherapy.
If you have severe depression, a doctor, loved one or guardian may need to guide your care until you're well enough to participate in decision making. You may need a hospital stay, or you may need to participate in an outpatient treatment program until your symptoms improve. Here's a closer look at your depression treatment options.
A number of antidepressant medications are available to treat depression. There are several different types of antidepressants. Antidepressants are generally categorized by how they affect the naturally occurring chemicals in your brain to change your mood.
Types of antidepressants include:
Prevention of Depression
There's no sure way to prevent depression. However, taking steps to control stress, to increase your resilience and to boost low self-esteem may help. Friendship and social support, especially in times of crisis, can help you weather rough spells. In addition, treatment at the earliest sign of a problem can help prevent depression from worsening. Long-term maintenance treatment also may help prevent a relapse of depression symptoms.
When to seek Medical Advice
If you feel depressed, make an appointment to see your doctor as soon as you can. Depression symptoms may not get better on their own — and depression may get worse if it isn't treated. Untreated depression can lead to other mental and physical health problems or problems in other areas of your life. Feelings of depression can also lead to suicide. If you're reluctant to seek treatment, talk to a friend or loved one, a health care professional, a faith leader, or someone else you trust.
If you have suicidal thoughts
If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, get help right away. Here are some steps you can take:
When to get emergency help
If you think you may hurt yourself or attempt suicide, call your local emergency number immediately. If you have a loved one who has harmed himself or herself, or is seriously considering doing so, make sure someone stays with that person. Take him or her to the hospital or call for emergency help.
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